With free time & space to fill with whatever message that they like.
People who work in the media are notoriously ill-paid for their work. College graduates, often with master’s degrees, fill newsrooms and editorial staffs for almost universally low salaries. They work long hours, usually including late nights and weekends, and the majority have no social status whatsoever. After years of toil, a small number may come to enjoy plum positions and the respect that comes with it.
Moldbug’s ‘polygon hypothesis‘ states:
The key to the Polygon hypothesis is that three words are synonyms: responsibility, influence, and power. The New York Times, for example, isresponsible because if it does the wrong thing rather than the right thing, it can cause a great deal of suffering. It is influential because its actions affect the lives of many people. And it is powerful because there is no conceivable meaningful sense of the English word power which is not synonymous with responsibility and influence. Power is the ability to make a difference, to change the world. Remind me again what people say on their J-school applications?
Understanding what individual journalists and editors are compensated with makes much more sense when you understand the media business model. It’s a real estate business in the case of text-and-still image media, and time business in the cause of oral/visual media like radio and television. The ‘content’ of an article builds up a certain audience, and then the salespeople within that business sell proportional access to that audience to advertisers, who will use that access to influence the behavior of the audience.
The typical journalist often earns only a pittance in cash, but effectively, if you consider how much access they have to their audience in the dollar terms that are quoted to advertisers, their salaries are often extremely high. A full page ad even in a small newspaper often goes for thousands of dollars. Yet a typical writer might get a half page on their beat in a single day.
That $20,000/year employee can be earning compensation in-kind into the six figures, tax free, that they can turn into a position of real power later in their career. Op-ed columnists can gain absurd levels of reach for what plebeian businessmen would have to spend tens of millions of dollars for.
A 500 word article in the Wall Street Journal at their 2014 non-contract rates takes up roughly $47,220 in effective advertising space: if you include the headline, it’s probably closer to $50,000. While not every article in the newspaper is competently constructed to influence behavior, it’s often disproportionately effective enough to self-sustain economically.
The same space that runs an advertisement that needs to drive hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales to be worthwhile goes towards an ordinary article in a national newspaper. In a magazine, especially with an affluent and specific audience, the numbers can get much higher.
If you’re a well-connected writer who doesn’t need a salary, that cash compensation looks more like a perk (because it keeps earnest strivers away from the position) than a problem.
While you couldn’t value a journalist’s column-inches in exactly the same way (although more than half of many papers goes to advertising, especially when you include inserts and online ads). The same opportunity for influence that advertisers would have to spend fortunes for goes straight to an ideologically-trained reporter fresh out of a program like Columbia Journalism School. It’s not so much that the graduates of those programs learn much of anything useful: it’s that they learn what to think and how to say it in order to shift the global culture in a direction that pleases their professors and their friends. They also gain access to the alumni social network, and status that they can lord over their inferiors.
It’s easier to comprehend the power of the press when you put it in dollar terms. While journalists are in theory restricted about what they can write, these rules hew to the existing Cathedral line: conveniently, source guidelines favor university professors, doctors, scientists, government officials, and other ideologically vetted authorities. The system is less open and self-organizing than it seems on the outside.
As media workers tend to be ‘underpaid’ (in reality grossly overpaid relative to their abilities when you count the effective non-monetary compensation), it’s trivial to replace one who becomes irresponsible and splits from the ‘professional standards’ expected of a member of the respectable press.
This method of social control, while effective, has been breaking down for a few reasons:
- It has lost credibility with the mass audience. Too many obvious lies have damaged too many people, and left them distrustful of their spiritual authorities.
- With the liberalization of media laws, the ‘mass audience’ has fractured into countless non-overlapping clans.
- Their customer base of advertisers has more affordable options, and access to ‘audience’ is more of a commodity than it once was.
So the Cathedral has been wracking itself in fear about ‘what comes next,’ and has hoped that the new era of decentralized ‘social’ media will provide it with new avenues of control. Control, however, has been difficult to come by: the expense of monitoring and shaping the gross quantity of communications that has erupted is threatening both the legitimacy and technical feasibility of the entire project.
The chief problem the Cathedral has right now, from an economic perspective, it’s entirely destructive to the people who are most faithful to it. If you follow the Buzzfeed lifestyle, you’ll become a wormlike, semiliterate, androgynous moron. While the traffic that it drives for its advertisers might help them increase sales in the short run, in the long run, it’s churning out a young demographic that’s more marginal in economic terms than its elder cohorts.
An ad guy at Consumer Reports whom I shared a beer with years ago told me that the reason that his magazine had stayed relatively insulated from what had ravaged the others was that it was a subscription to the magazine was part of the ‘standard package’ that came with a house in the suburbs, a wife, and the first kid.
Sluts and pajama boys don’t care about lawnmower reviews because they’ll never be able to afford either a house or a lawnmower in great numbers. They’ll also be unlikely to have many children, which makes them undependable sources of demand for a broad class of goods. They’re terrible demographics to advertise to, which makes it much harder for the media complex to self-sustain.
Reactionaries spend a lot of time fixating on sluts and pickup artists as sources of degeneracy, but the real weakling is the 300 pound loner who spends all day playing free games on his/her (gender can be unclear) used iPhone with a cracked screen, dressed in sweatpants purchased from a thrift store. Demographically, the invisible dropout is more dominant than the flashy urban degenerate.
The economics of the media business (slimming ad rates for each section of the audience) are consequences of the declining demographics of the country.
Having outlined one of their main problems, the next task is to exacerbate it, to make it as close to fatal as possible for our friends in the Cathedral. Over the weekend, Nick Land wrote that “…[the] Left is a disease, and therefore a potential bioweapon.” If it can be treated as a disease, then the environment in which it thrives should be isolated, pressurized, and cordoned off — to exacerbate the deadliness to the infected.
Engineering a controlled detonation could keep the damage localized. The trouble is that the whole Western world is pockmarked with ideological mines, rigged for destruction. This makes the necessary work demand a certain delicacy.